Jane B (knally) wrote,
Jane B

Ashgrove Burial Ground

Today was the decennial visit to Ashgrove Quaker Burial Ground near Shaftesbury. This is a burial ground in use by Quakers since the 17th century, at which time they, like other non-conformists, were often refused permission to be buried in churchyards. This ground and access to it was given in perpetuity to the Society, but in order to keep the access open it has to be used at least once every 12 years. So to be on the safe side, there is a meeting there every 10 years and a document is signed by all present and buried in a bottle on the site. It is still in use for the occasional burial and scattering of ashes.

We arranged a coach from Winchester, booking one for about 20 people but a 50-seater turned up. This was very nice for the passengers since we had plenty of room, but a bit of a challenge for the driver who had to manoeuvre it through some narrow streets and lanes. He was an excellent driver, who also kept good-humoured and helpful throughout the whole day, which probably seemed a bit bizarre to him. Since we were travelling via Salisbury we dropped into the new Meeting House there. It's an older building which has been renovated to a high standard and has a lovely light meeting room, with several other rooms available for use by local groups. We picked up a few more Quakers and carried on to Shaftesbury Meeting House for a very quick cup of tea and lunch. The plan was to have an hour there, but we were held up by the traffic in Salisbury due to Supercars at Wilton House which was right on our route! However we managed to get to the start of the walk down to the burial ground on time.

The coach dropped us off at the top of a hill by Ashgrove Farm. From there it's a rough steep track down into the valley, and then a walk through woods and fields to the ground. For those elderly members who couldn't manage the quite tricky path, transport was provided. A few came down in four wheel drives, and the owner of the estate (a Mr. Ritchie) offered the use of the mobile hut which the pheasant beaters use during shoots. Luckily the weather kept fine, although there were showers throughout the day and torrential rain at one point.

Ashgrove journey Ashgrove transport
Eventually we were all there, and one of the local Quakers gave a short speech explaining the history, and some of the anecdotes from previous occasions. Some rather unlawful activity with wire cutters has gone on when the landowner has been less obliging. We then had a short half-hour silent meeting for worship, which was held in a brief period of sunshine. The usual silence was broken by the sound of sheep, grasshoppers, pheasants and even a buzzard, but it still had that distinctive listening feel that a Quaker silence has. I won't say that the spirits of former Quakers were amongst us, but I could vividly imagine them sharing the same silence in former times. After the meeting we all signed our names on several sheets of paper, which are now buried in a bottle at the site.
Ashgrove circle Ashgrove gathering

Tags: quakers

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